Ray Saldana peeked through the blinds of his mother's dining room window, then peered over his shoulder at a crowded living room of friends and relatives.
"Oh my God she's going to kill me," he said with a thousand-watt smile. "I've been lying to her all this time. I've never lied to my mother. Does anybody know CPR?"
Saldana's nurse wife and nursing student niece simultaneously raised their hands.
"We're both CPR-certified," offered the niece, Crystal Martinez.
"We might need it," Saldana quipped.
It was actually 62-year-old lung cancer patient Carmen Munoz who looked like she might need resuscitation for a stunned moment Saturday, but not because of her illness.
Munoz was just shocked by the appearance of her house, which had been remodeled and redecorated while she'd been away visiting a sister in Moreno Valley, which is just east of Riverside.
Munoz's 1,100-square-foot, 1952 southeast Bakersfield home got a complete makeover Saturday in the inaugural Kitchens 4 Cancer program, which aims to surprise a needy cancer patient with a new kitchen every year on or near Valentine's Day.
It's co-sponsored by Comprehensive Blood & Cancer Center and Saldana's company, WoodMasters Design.
The whole thing started when Munoz asked the younger of her two adult sons if he'd paint her kitchen. Saldana told her no, he was just too busy.
"I think I hurt her feelings, to be honest," he said. "But it was all part of the set-up."
Saldana had bigger plans than a mere paint job, so he schemed with CBCC to get Munoz out of town for a few days so he and a small army of volunteers could rip out the dated 1950s kitchen and start over from scratch.
"I told her she needed a little break from the chemo and recommended that she get out of town, visit some family and get some rest," said CBCC's Dr. Ravi Patel.
Munoz was only supposed to get a kitchen, but her relatives and the contractors, furniture stores and laborers who donated time and merchandise got a little carried away.
As new appliances, cabinets, countertops and flooring were installed in the kitchen, the project creeped into the dining and living rooms.
Even the front door was replaced, which was the first thing Munoz noticed. As she fiddled with her keys, she could be heard wondering aloud if her son had painted the door because it looked different.
When she opened it, about 70 friends, relatives and volunteers jumped up and shouted, "Surprise!"
Munoz cupped her hand over her mouth and her eyes filled with tears, but the tiny space was so crowded with people that it took a few minutes for her to register that this was more than just a surprise party.
As the crowd surged forward to embrace and pat her, the realization dawned slowly and Munoz's eyes widened.
"Oh my gosh!" she said over and over again. "Oh my gosh!"
Dark, wide-planked hardwood floors in the kitchen and living room had replaced previous wood flooring so warn and warped that it had lost its original color.
The new furniture and accessories included a dining room table and chairs and leather sofas.
In the kitchen, granite countertops were installed over glazed beige cabinets with oil-rubbed bronze hardware.
Wearing a head scarf and hat, Munoz was dazed by strangers and television camera crews intermixed with friends and family in her new kitchen.
"I don't know you," she told a volunteer through her astonished gasps.
"Just hug him," someone shouted, so she did.
The makeover was absolutely beautiful, Munoz said.
"When you're on a fixed income, it's such a struggle, and then to get cancer," she said. "When you're sitting there at CBCC getting your chemo, you're all alone, but this. It's so nice. It really makes you feel like people care and you matter."
Neither Saldana nor Patel could say precisely how much the makeover was worth because so much of the labor and merchandise was donated, but they estimated it was easily in the thousands -- far more than the single mother could have afforded on her own.
After the surprise reveal, Munoz was treated to a catered family reunion in the backyard.
"Who did the cooking? I always do the cooking!" she said when she saw a buffet line forming.
"We ordered it," said her older son, Ruben Saldana.
Patel was feeling quite proud of himself as he and his wife took the scene in.
"Whatever happens to Carmen, she and her family will always have this memory, and that's so important," he said. "Everyone always talks about drugs and chemotherapy, but family support and love, that's helping her more than anything we can do with chemo."